Todd should rethink his support for downtown development

Column by Linsen Li

When President Lee Todd endorsed the CentrePointe development, he was looking out for future students and faculty members, or so he claimed.

The project, centered around a massive luxury hotel, “will help create a downtown atmosphere that will help us attract and retain innovative and creative students, faculty, and staff — the very individuals who will help us build the kind of global economy this community needs,” Todd said in a letter to Woodford Webb, one of the project’s developers.

This project would force popular bars and music venues — including The Dame, Mia’s and Buster’s — to shut down or relocate.

Judging by the overwhelmingly negative response from the aforementioned group of students, faculty and staff since the unveiling of the proposed development, Todd’s presumption couldn’t have been more wrong.

Whatever reasons Todd has to justify his conclusion that the luxury hotel would attract talented students and professors to the city are beyond my understanding.

It’s easy to see the significance of the Rosenberg Block, the proposed site for CentrePointe, for the UK student body.

For students as well as professors, the block is a cultural center. Touring bands often make a point to stop at The Dame, and all three venues provide stages for local music groups. Forcing these venues to scatter and relocate would bring tremendous damage to the downtown nightlife and dampen the students’ fun-loving spirits.

If this development may drive away current students and recent college graduates from the city, then how can one expect it to lure in potential students?

On the other hand, I don’t foresee college students and professors frequenting a luxury hotel in their own city, especially following steep tuition hikes and no salary raises.

All the potential damages aside, it is possible that the downtown development may contribute to Lexington’s economy down the road, and perhaps that was Todd’s reason to support the project. But calling it an attraction for potential students and faculty is far-fetched and against common sense.

As an individual, Todd has the right to freely support or criticize the development. But because he signed the letter as the president of UK, his endorsement carries much more significance than it would as a private opinion. Consequently, his decision is rightfully under public scrutiny.

It needs to be pointed out that the letter of endorsement was sent on March 5, one day after the CentrePointe development was announced and before the campus was able to muster its voice of objection.

One can argue that because Todd was unaware of the campus’ stance on the development at the time, he was thus only uninformed and not knowingly ignoring the campus’ will. However, an equally valid question can be raised: Why did he offer his endorsement so rashly, before seeking input from the student body, faculty and staff?

Finding out Todd’s initial reasoning for the endorsement is a moot point at this time. By now, he should realize that, to the contrary of his initial judgment, the UK community is against the destruction of a lively downtown block and the erection of a 35-floor phallic monstrosity as its replacement.

More importantly, now having this knowledge, it is up to Todd to recognize his error and rescind his endorsement.

The UK community has spoken against the CentrePointe development. It’s time for Todd to listen and respond accordingly.